Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.
– Desmond Tutu
I barely got any sleep last night. I had been anticipating this morning’s radio show all night long, and couldn’t get my mind to rest. I was feeling good about getting on air, and hoped that I would get some sign that I was doing the right thing. I happened to glance over at a stop light, and saw my dad standing on the sidewalk. His eyes seemed wide today, and he was looking up again. This is usually a good sign. I felt my heart tug as the light changed, and I slowly hit the gas pedal to keep moving forward. As the distance between us grew farther, I took one last glance in the rear-view mirror and reassured myself that this was the sign I needed. This was the sign to keep moving forward.
The crew at HPR were very supportive, and I really appreciated their warmth and encouragement. Just before I got on air, I had the opportunity to chat with one of the other guest speakers and was touched by her words. We spent about 10 minutes sitting across from each other, with our hands embraced, and she acknowledged the courage it would take to share this story in such a public way. As I looked into the peaceful eyes of this woman who was a stranger just moments before, we bonded over the shared understanding of what it means to struggle in life, and the personal sacrifices we make to help others. I heard the introduction to my segment fill the waiting room around us, and she gave me one last reassuring squeeze before I stepped inside another room with the radio co-host waiting for me.
I felt so cold. My hands started to tremble. As I took a seat and waited for my cue to start talking, I kept replaying the image of my dad from this morning. I saw him in the rear-view mirror, and took a deep breath before I spoke. It was time to pull back the curtain, and offer a view into a small part of the world we live in.
I felt relieved after it was over. As soon as my segment was done, I walked outside of the room and sat down in the waiting area. I sat there and cried heavy tears thinking about the last time I spoke to him, and the Ring Pop I had left on the ground. I wondered if this would really help anyone out there, if it would touch or humanize homelessness at all.
There were a few details that I didn’t get a chance to share on-air. When Beth-Ann asked about how he landed on the streets, I forgot to mention that at one time he was actually living on the streets despite having an apartment. Within a span of a few months he refused to take his medication, refused to bathe, and began to wander around on the streets. I had learned that other family members kept asking him to bathe. Over time his poor personal hygiene offended the residents living in the apartment complex, and the residential manager and landlord had evicted him despite timely rent payment. I had been coordinating with various family members to touch bases with the Legal Aid Society for assistance to address any fair housing issues, but by then he was already evicted and they had not received any responses.
There is no “one way” to address homelessness. In the case of my father, I am not certain if he will ever be a completely independent and functioning member of society again. What I do know is that there have been brief moments of hope. There have been minutes where he would agree for assistance. Whether he agrees when it’s with me, his other children, or other relatives, the issue has always been that he changes his mind.
I have been asking myself what’s next… What more can I do besides wait for him to agree to one of many who approach him on a weekly basis? I intend to address some of the legal challenges, and continue the conversation as I walk this journey with my dad. Despite his shortcomings in life, I have learned to accept him and love him regardless of the abuse and harm he put so many through. I have watched him grow into a more loving person even with his mental illness… I am finally learning who my dad is, and I know I’m meant to help him. With the help of others, I would like to give him the opportunity to achieve and maintain a state of mental clarity so he can make better decisions for himself in the life he has today. As long as we are breathing, and our hearts are beating, I do believe people can change and the capacity to love can overcome a lot of pain in this world.
Until next time…